Two of the most important figures in rock & roll were Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart. Although their techniques were different from one another, each had a huge impact on the genre. Jazz and classical music had a significant effect on Zappa’s work, whilst Beefheart combined elements of blues, jazz, and avant-garde experimentation. Their avant-garde and frequently surprising music expanded the realm of rock and roll and paved the way for succeeding waves of rock music.
These two artists have been in the music industry since the late 50s. Since then, they have collaborated a lot and the very first time was in 1958-1959. Back then, they used a portable reel-to-reel system to make a song and the end result was ‘Lost in a Whirlpool‘.
Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart collaborated on the psychedelic rock tune “Lost in a Whirlpool,” which combines Zappa’s unorthodox and experimental composition with Beefheart’s avant-garde blues and rock music. While the music is a drifting study of a sound environment, the words describe a man who is trapped in a vortex and is trying to escape. The song starts out with a slow, mesmerizing guitar riff, and then Beefheart’s vocals come in. His vocals, punctuated by Zappa’s guitar and saxophone, produce a singular and disorienting ambiance that makes the listener feel as though they are being sucked into the whirlpool themselves.
During an interview in 1989, Zappa talked about the song and said, “‘Lost in a Whirlpool’ was taped on one of those tape recorders that you have in a school in the audio/visual department. We went into this room, this empty room at the junior college in Lancaster, after school, and got this tape-recorded and just turned it on. The guitars are me and my brother (Bobby Zappa), and the vocal is Don Vliet.”
There was also a story behind the song. And it goes back in time. Zappa at the same time explained, “When I was in high school in San Diego in ’55, there was a guy who grew up to be a sports writer named Larry Littlefield. He, and another guy named Jeff Harris, and I used to hang out, and we used to make up stories, little skits and stuff, you know, dumb little teenage things.”
“One of the plots that we cooked up was about a person who was skin-diving—San Diego’s a surfer kind of an area—skin-diving in the San Diego sewer system and talking about encountering brown, blind fish, It was kind of like the Cousteau expedition of its era. So, when I moved to Lancaster from San Diego, I had discussed this scenario with Vliet, and that’s where the lyrics come from. It’s like a musical manifestation of this other skin-diving scenario.”
This song is a superb example of how Zappa’s avant-garde rock and Beefheart’s blues-infused psychedelia were able to work together to create something new. Zappa and Beefheart both had a significant impact on rock and roll, and their music is still popular today. Their avant-garde approaches pushed the limits of the genre and paved the way for succeeding waves of rock music.
Listen to the song ‘Lost in a Whirlpool’ down below.